Although cerebellar Purkinje cells display spontaneous electrical activity in vivo and in slice experiments, the mechanism of the spontaneous activity generation has not been clearly understood. The aim of this study was to investigate whether cerebellar Purkinje cells of postnatal rats generate spontaneous electrical activity without synaptic inputs. Dissociated cerebellar Purkinje cells were used for reducing synaptic inputs in the present study. Cerebellar Purkinje cells with dendrites were dissociated from postnatal rats using enzymatic treatment followed by mechanical trituration. Spontaneous electrical activities were recorded from dissociated cells without any stimulus using whole-cell patch clamp configuration. Two types, spontaneously firing or quiescent, of dissociated Purkinje cells were observed in postnatal rats. Both types of cells were identified as Purkinje cells using immunocytochemical staining technique with anti-calbindin after recording. Spontaneously active cells displayed two patterns of firing, repetitive and burst firings. Two thirds of dissociated Purkinje cells displayed repetitive firing and the rest of them did burst firing under same recording condition. Repetitive firing activities were maintained even after further isolation using either physical or pharmacological techniques. Neither high magnessium solution nor excitatory synaptic blockers, AP-5 and DNQX, block the spontaneous activity. These results demonstrate that spontaneous electrical activity of isolated cerebellar Purkinje cells in postnatal rats is generated by intrinsic membrane properties rather than synaptic inputs.
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